The fascination surrounding 16-year-old New Zealand songstress Ella Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde, has become somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon.Even before her debut EP, The Love Club, reached the top of the charts there was a fierce bidding war between record labels on who gets to release her music in all the major countries. Judged solely on her music and not her personal aesthetic, the mysteriously soft-spoken musician quickly took over multiple charts with her first single "Royals." Only 6 months ago, Lorde was virtually unknown, but now she's prepping to take center stage in her debut full-length album, Pure Heroine, due out at the end of the month.
In a music landscape so often filled with mindless hooks and generic rhythms, Lorde steps out to deliver some much needed originality. Lead single "Royals" cleverly pokes fun at our materialistic culture while also outlining the meaningless lyrics of today's rappers: "Every song's like 'gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin' in the bathroom, blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room." Instead of approaching this song with a hard-hitting, dubstep type chorus, Lorde consciously chose to layer her smooth vocals over mellow hip-hop beats, which make for a harmonic opening. Lorde again conquers on her second single "Tennis Court" by infusing her signature lyricism with infectious pop melodies. There's something about Lorde's vocal delivery, it might be the pacing or timing, that causes it to sound like she's rapping during some parts of the song. It's definitely not a Busta Rhymes type speed rap, but more of a slowed down, sweetly flowing play of words.
Most recently, Lorde put out her third single "Team," an upbeat track with extra-peppy snares and immediately hypnotic choruses. Once Lorde starts crooning the hook of "We're on each others team," you're mesmerized, sounding like another possible radio hit for the teen. Naturally, the rest of the album is primarily pop oriented where the highlights are "Still Sane," a gripping song describing how she's dealing with newfound fame; "Ribs," a pulsing dance track with a hovering bass line complimenting Lorde's vocals, and "400 Lux," an eerie track expressing her fearful attitude towards change.
Upon her already countless achievements, Lorde has been able to garner a large following, become a platinum-selling recording artist and be the first solo female in 17 years to top the US alternative songs chart. Although these stand on their own merit, her biggest accomplishment thus far is being able to define what it means to be successful not only as a teen experiencing a typical life, but as a female musician. Lorde challenges the highly sexualized and graphic standards many artists today use to promote their music and instead focuses on quality messages and sound.